Is trucking at a crossroads?

Trucking is approaching a critical period, facing a myriad of challenges and opportunities, according to, American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves.

In his “State of the Industry” address at the opening general session of ATA’s annual Management Conference & Exhibition, Graves believes trucking is approaching a crossroads.

“In fact you’re facing an entire series of crossroads – each one a decision point sending you in directions that will ultimately determine success or failure, profitability or loss, growth or stagnation,” Graves said in his address.

In identifying trucking’s challenges, Graves pointed his finger squarely at Washington.

“Three of our nation’s biggest problems are the sluggish economy, a very dysfunctional federal government and the people of this nation who lack confidence that the economy will get better and that our government as its currently assembled in Washington isn’t capable of getting the job done,” he said.

In looking at Washington’s challenges for trucking, Graves pointed to CSA, the federal government’s safety monitoring program as a prime example.

“We still believe that CSA is fundamentally the program that will make travel on the nation’s highways safer,” Graves said. “But it must be implemented and managed in such a way as to instill confidence with the industry that our ‘buy in’ to the program will make our companies stronger and not be penalized by inaccurate data or misrepresentation by the shipping community or the media.”

Graves also pointed to the administration’s pursuit of a new hours-of-service rule as another example of Washington providing a challenge to the trucking industry.

“The rule was working just fine,” he said, “I have no doubt that the changes were the result of political pressures brought to bear from the White House and not the result of FMCSA professionals believing that further change was necessary or could be justified.”

Despite those challenges, and others like the driver shortage, the weak economic recovery, insufficient federal support for infrastructure and the rise in tolling and rising fuel prices, Graves said trucking was still well-positioned for the future.

“The essentiality of the industry and the demand for freight movement by truck – a growing demand for freight movement by truck – is unquestioned,” Graves said. “The long-term macro outlook for trucking has never been better, but the near-term micro view continues to be very challenging.”

To overcome those challenges, as trucking sits at the crossroads, Graves said it was important for companies to adapt and change.

“Those unwilling to embrace change will not survive. As unpleasant as that option may be, it’s simply a truth that has always confronted the industry,” he said. “Any over you who know the history of de-regulation, know that the folks who embraced the changing operational landscape of the trucking were at the vanguard of the industry we know today.”
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